Now that so much of our schooling is virtual, social media seems more important than ever.
Social media can be a blessing and a curse. It allows schools to communicate in new ways with parents and families, make connections to other school leaders for collaboration, and provides opportunities for professional learning.
However, social media concerns around behavior and student misuse of social media leads to difficult situations for principals to tackle. Much of the online “drama” quickly seeps into in-person interactions between students.
Here are some tips for principals to manage social media:
Teach Students Digital Citizenship
Just like any other skill we teach our students, appropriate use of online and digital resources is necessary to directly teach. Here is a good resource from Edutopia about teaching digital citizenship (specifically helpful curricular tools can be found here).
Digital Citizenship Week is October 16-22, so your students could even plan a “spirit week” or school campaign to reinforce appropriate use of technology.
Teach Parents About Appropriate Social Media Use
Parents may not know the best ways to control their student’s social media use, or even be very concerned about it. Many of the parents I worked with who had students that got caught up in extremely harmful social media use had no clue it was going on. It’s important to teach parents ways to monitor negative technology use and support good habits. Here is a helpful resource that Instagram and the National PTA created called “Know How to Talk with Your Teen About Instagram: A Parent’s Guide.” The guide reinforces the important need that parents monitor their child’s behavior online frequently.
Make sure parents teach their children to:
- Not friend strangers
- Set time limits to use (the average teen spends 9 hours a day on screens. Limit it to 60-90 minutes per day)
- Keep their profile private
- Understand that technology is a privilege that can be taken away with misuse
- Not post or message anyone emotionally (think twice and reflect on any negative consequences of the post)
Here are apps that can help parents monitor social media use:
- Norton – Parents can set phone time limits and keep track of online content on your child’s phone.
- Qustodio – Parents can track and set a time to shut down the phone as a “curfew”
- TeenSafe – Parents can track calls, texts, and social media activity.
Create Community Expectations and Standards for Social Media Use
Set clear community standards and expectations for what you expect from social media use from students. The school code of conduct or a beginning of year “technology contract” can guide students and make them commit to following the school standards set. Make sure the consequences are also clear to students if they fail to follow those standards.
Have a Clear Student Reporting System for Inappropriate Social Media Usage
Students are the ones who follow and view each other’s online activity. Make sure there is a clear reporting system (online or in hard copy form) for students to share negative social media use. Cyberbullying is a very dangerous but prevalent problem in our world today. Students who want to be upstanders and share information to protect and support friends should have an easy (and even anonymous, if they are scared to report) way to share with school administrators or counselors.
Never Ignore Inappropriate or Negative Social Media Use
If we ignore negative social media use that we hear about or see from students, we are telling them that it is “okay” to behave in that way. Make sure that any student or parent report regarding inappropriate online activity is followed up on.
Never Allow Staff to “Friend” or “Follow” Students
This goes without saying, but make sure that your staff has clear rules about following or friending students. I recommend having a clear “no friending or following” policy to protect teachers and staff. This can be easily incorporated into your staff handbook or manual that teachers sign at the beginning of the year.